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New Texas law helps struggling high school seniors if they failed STAAR tests this year

House Bill 999 went into effect on Monday.

AUSTIN, Texas — According to new guidance from the Texas Education Agency, the 87th Texas Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 999, and it amends state law related to individual graduation committees (Texas Education Code §28.0258) for seniors in the 2020-2021 school year. 

The law went into effect on Monday and it establishes that this year's seniors are eligible to graduate through an individual graduation committee, or IGC, decision regardless of how the student did on the STAAR test. Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal is the author of the legislation.

"Graduating with your peers, wearing the cap and gown, crossing the stage, that means a lot for a lot of people," said Sen. José Menéndez, District 26 (D-San Antonio), a co-sponsor of HB 999. "I don't think that we should let the combination of COVID and STAAR exam rob people of that experience that they're only going to get once in their lifetime in high school."

"Additionally, the legislation states that, when determining if a student is qualified to graduate, an IGC is not required to consider student performance on end-of-course exam(s), including those the student failed," states the TEA in its guidance.  

Below is an outline of the process for an IGC:

  • Students must successfully complete all curriculum requirements for high school graduation as identified in 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 74, Subchapter B. Districts and charter schools must determine if a student has met all other graduation requirements under TEC, §28.025(c), including successful completion of all curriculum requirements or an individualized education program.
  • Districts and campuses must convene an IGC that complies with the requirements of 19 TAC §74.1025(f). Administrative rules permit flexibility if the membership specified in rule is unavailable. Please refer to 19 TAC §74.1025(g)–(i) for more details.
  • IGCs must establish an IGC plan that the student must complete to be eligible to graduate. The IGC plan must require additional remediation and—for each course with an associated IGC that the student has not yet passed—
    • completion of a project related to the subject area of the course that demonstrates proficiency in the subject area, or
    • preparation of a portfolio of work samples in the subject area of the course, including work samples from the course that demonstrate proficiency in the subject area.
  • The IGC must ensure that adequate time is provided for the student to complete the required IGC plan.
  • The IGC must make a final determination regarding graduation. A student may graduate and receive a high school diploma only if the student successfully completes all curriculum requirements for graduation and all requirements recommended by the committee and the committee’s vote is unanimous.

Menéndez said HB 999 is meant to help students who fell behind during the pandemic. Some education advocacy groups on Twitter thanked lawmakers for this law. 

Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron said Elgin ISD has three seniors that will benefit from this legislation if they complete the IGC process.

"We are very pleased with the passage of HB 999. I wish to thank Rep. Bernal and Sen. Menendez for their leadership in moving this piece of legislation across the finish line," said Duron. "The passage of this bill is a step in the right direction and, certainly, an acknowledgment of what our students have endured over the past 14 months. Importantly, what all students have lived and learned over the past year can never be measured by a test."

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